Week One Evaluation (15th March-21st March)

Overall, I think this song has improved a lot since the first initial draft I made last week. Then, the song was just over 30 seconds long and now it has a full structure that consists of many different elements and that has been reinforced with extra instruments and fx tracks. One of these is a bass part which helps to drive the song and gives a boost to the lower frequencies. The drums are also much more interesting now as they drop out and come back in strange parts of the song; this gives it a sense of syncopation. Dropping out drums and chopping up different drum samples as I did here is very common in hip-hop, so these parts in my song resonate with the genre I want it to sound like. I also tweaked the tempo, slowing it down a little to make it more chilled and similar to hip-hop again.

Progressions And Strengths

One of the most important things I did this week was working on the structure of the song overall. I knew I needed to do this because last week it was simply a loop and it didn’t go anywhere else. Now, the song has an intro, verse, chorus, break and bridge which helps bring the whole composition together. I wanted to go for a verse-chorus structure as I am planning on getting a vocalist on the track; perhaps other students like Lucy or Meg, or even look to get a rapper from outside of college. In old school hip-hop, lots of songs have breakdowns in which they just play the drum breakbeat by itself or accompanied with bass and this idea stems from breakdancing, a popular form of dance within young African-American communities. Using a breakdown is exactly what I did here; I took the sampled breakbeat and just looped that over. Then the song moves into a bridge, which has this call and response type structure. This is my favourite part of the song as of now.

As well as a structure, I also added bass and sub-bass part. The bass track was played by me which was really fun as I had never played bass before this. Considering I had only just started playing on Monday, I really like what I created and think bass would be something to consider going further with in terms of a new instrument and skill to learn. We had some trouble with recording the bass as my laptop wouldn’t recognise any of the audio interfaces we were using, even when we installed the right drivers. To fix this, I bounced the track down and exported it to Logic on the college’s iMac in one of the recording suites. I then recorded the bass through Logic and exported it back to my laptop so I could quantize and add the right effects to it in Ableton. The sub-bass part only appears in the break as I thought it sounded too muddy if it was to play throughout the whole song as well as the recorded bass.

After finishing the main structure and bulk of the instruments, I started to think about different types of fx I could add to the song to make it more lo-fi and generally interesting to listen to. Lots of lo-fi hop-hop uses ambient noises like vinyl dirt, white noise, rain or general environmental noises. I found an environmental ambience sample of crowd noises coming from a TV I discovered on Ableton which helped to give the song a low fidelity feel. I also put some risers in place to emphasise the structure changes and to give the song more movement and textures. Ben, one of the tutors, sent me some samples that I could use in my work; I used the turntable scratch sound that you can hear usually in conjunction with the risers. I think this sounds great with the white noise sound and gives the song more lo-fi elements.


Next week and over easter, I want to look at some more technical production techniques for this song. Once I know how to use these, I can then apply them to my other single and perhaps even any other music I make after this project. Specifically, I want to learn with Lewis how to use sidechaining effectively, how to make effect racks on Ableton and how to create better atmospheric noises using effects and different sound design techniques. I feel like sidechaining would be important for this track as the bass is meant to be very prominent. However, if I add too much bass, it will sound very muddy and low frequency heavy. I want to then add sidechains to my sub-bass and bass guitar so they dip in and out of the bass drum on the breakbeat track.

The structure is almost finished now, but I just need to make a much better ending than what I have now. Joel, a tutor, mentioned that quite a lot of lo-fi and old school hip-hop uses fade-outs. I didn’t like this idea at first as I thought it was almost like a cheap way of ending a song as you don’t really have to make an outro. However, after thinking about it and listening to references that use this production technique, I think this idea could work really well. Next week, I plan to try this out and come up with some more experimental ideas so it doesn’t just sound like a simple fade out. For example, I could fade different instruments out at different times or fade everything out and leave just one or two instruments playing at the end.

Targets For Next Week

-Look at some production techniques for this song with Lewis, for example, sidechaining.

-Could look at trying to find a rapper to collaborate with on this track.

-Create a better ending in terms of structure.